Scientists have warned there could be major delays in producing a Covid-19 vaccine if current UK infection rates remain low and lengthy waiting times are needed to show if candidate products are working. As a result, some researchers insist that ministers must now consider implementing radical alternative measures to speed up vaccine development.
In particular, they argue that Britain should consider deliberately infecting volunteers involved in vaccine-testing projects – in line with World Health Organization proposals to set up such human challenge trials. Earlier this month, the WHO issued a 19-page set of guidelines on how these trials might operate.
However, other UK scientists have reacted with horror at the proposal to implement human challenge trials for a Covid-19 vaccine on the grounds that these could cause serious illness and possibly deaths of volunteers who had been deliberately infected with the virus.
The dilemma was summed up by Jonathan Ives of the Centre for Ethics in Medicine at Bristol University. “If we were to do this, we would be asking healthy people to put their wellbeing and their lives at risk for the good of society at large. On the other hand, taking that risk could speed up vaccine development and save many, many lives. So I think there could be grounds for going ahead with challenge trials, though it would be based on a very finely balanced argument.”
Read more at The Guardian